The Salkantay trek is probably the best of the alternative Inca Trail treks to Machu Picchu. Accessible throughout the year, this trek is quite popular among the beginners as well as the seasoned trekkers. Unlike the exemplary Inca trail, the Salkantay trek does not require a permit (hence better availability and cheaper) and gives you 5 days to soak in the beautiful environment.
The Salkantay Trek is famous for its scenery, which most visitors attest surpasses that of the Inca Trail. You have a better chance of seeing varied plant life and larger mammals such as deer, chinchilla, foxes and, with luck, even Spectacled Bears! It is a hike through the picturesque Andes up to imposing glaciers and then descending through lush valleys with coffee plantations and back up into the high jungle. The Salkantay trek is named after the Salkantay Mountain which stands at 6271 meters above the sea level. Ranked among the top 25 treks in the world by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine, the trail goes through a diverse topography of lush green rainforests and giant snow-capped mountains. Imagine walking through the Salkantay Pass at 15,000 ft (4600 meters), camping under the stars, traversing the ancient Inca highway, passing through dense jungles, and dipping in Cocalmayus hot springs, all in a 60 km trek to the ancient city of the Incas!
Do note that since this is a high altitude trek it poses the risk of altitude sickness. It is advisable to give at least 2 days for acclimatization at Cusco before the trek so that the body can adapt to the sudden change in altitude. Try to avoid alcohol before and during your trek, and make sure you eat lightly and drink plenty of water. Drinking Coca leaf tea is believed to help as it dilates vessels to increase the blood flow to the parts of the body that need it. You may also wish to speak with your doctor about Diamox pills.
After four days of trekking, you would reach to Aguas Calientes, which is the nearest town to Machu Picchu. From here, you have the option to take the bus service, which leaves every half an hour and drops you near the site, or to carry on your journey in the way the Inca people did on two feet. It takes an hour and a half to scale more than 2000 steps to reach Machu Picchu. Alternatively, the Salkantay trek can be combined with the one day Inca trail to reach Machu Picchu.
After you reach this historical Inca site, you would be provided a two-hour guided tour by your tour operator where you will be shown the ruins of Sun Gate and Inca Bridge. If you have some juice still left in your body, you can climb Huayna Picchu, for which a separate permit is required. Machu Picchu is an epitome of the Inca Empire at the pinnacle of its glory and power. The landscape of Amazon basin and the Peruvian Andes surrounding this ancient megalith parallels it in magnificence. The Salkantay trek aptly validates the saying that traveling is more about the journey than about the destination!
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With so many choices that can be found online, it would be a surprise if this question did not come to your mind. When you go with AlienAdv for an adventure holiday, you are guided by expert locals who love to show their regions and cultures like they would to friends. We collaborate with them for this reason, their experience in hospitality and their highly rated services. At AlienAdv, we believe that in order to sustain tourism in beautiful parts of this world, we must give back to the local community. By doing so, we empower the locals to maintain the factors that attract the tourists to these places. Thus by having such recommended guides on our website, we ensure top notch tourism with benefits for the indigenous community.
Since the Salkantay trek is a high-altitude trek, it poses the risk of mountain sickness. However, your tour operators will take care of that by making sure that you get enough time for acclimatization. You need at least 2 days before you start the trek. The symptoms of AMS include nausea, headache and lack in appetite. It is advisable to take Diamox tablets with you. You shouldn’t rush; take small breaks and keep yourself hydrated.
A detailed packing list will be provided when you finalise your booking. But to give you a sense, you will need to bring a backpack with change of clothes for the entire trekking journey, a sleeping bag, hiking shoes, warm clothing, a light sweater, and a rain-proof jacket (plastic ponchos can be purchased in Cusco). The tents and mattresses will be provided by your tour operator. Other items that you should bring to the trek are sterilizing tablets, toiletries, flashlight, toilet paper, water bottle (Important: plastic water bottles are no longer allowed into Machu Picchu. Plastic water containers, e.g. Nalgene or metal ones are recommended), sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and dry fruits and energy bars. Carrying your original passport is compulsory too.
Yes, there is an abundance of mosquitos and other insects as you hike in the jungles and wilderness. It is advisable to keep bug sprays and mosquito repellents with you.
There are no toilets on the wilderness route, so the tour operators provide the facility of a portable tent toilet. However, you have to spend 4 days without a shower until you reach Aguas Calientes, where you can have a nice hot water bath in a hotel. There are streams along the Salkantay trail though where you can rinse off if you can bear the cold! Take plenty of biodegradable toilet paper with you, antiseptic and baby wet wipes and anti-bacterial hand gel.
The food, along with tea and coffee is taken care of by the tour operator. Meals are a mix of local specialties and international favorites. Special dietary requirements can be taken care of upon request. For water, you should keep a water bottle along with sterilizing tablets or water filter. You can fill your bottle from the springs and fountains along the way. You can also buy bottled water from the snack shops at Cusco, and a few other places on the trek route.
For an average traveler, Salkantay is considered a challenging hike. Due to the physical demands, anyone who wishes to trek Salkantay should at least be moderately fit. Plus, all trekkers should spend at least 2 days in Cuzco before the trek, to get acclimatized. The Salkantay Pass, at approximately 4,650 meters above sea level is the most difficult section in the trail because of the altitude and the bitter cold winds. This trek is not recommended for children under 14 years of age and children who are over 14 years old should be in good physical shape and used to hiking long distances.
Although Machu Picchu is open throughout the year, the best time to travel is from April to October as these are the dry months of the year. June to August are the busiest months. It is generally thought that May and October offer the best weather conditions.
Of the routes often referred to as the 'alternative treks to Machu Picchu', the Salkantay Trek is the most popular. Although it’s tougher than the Classic Inca Trail, it famously showcases the best scenery of all the treks to Machu Picchu. As mentioned above it usually takes 5 days including the final day at the ruins, although it can be done in 4 days for those with a tight schedule and good fitness. Here are some comparisons between the Salkantay and the Inca Trail. Difficulty The Inca Trail is considered a moderate trek. There is one steep and quite difficult segment on the second day - the climb to the trek’s highpoint, Dead Woman’s Pass. Aside from this, the trek is not difficult. The Salkantay trek, on the other hand, is almost twice as long as the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (60km compared to 30km) and reaches a higher altitude (15,215ft rather than 13,800ft). This does mean it’s more physically challenging and generally colder. Traffic The Inca Trail is an extremely popular route. The permit limits do keep the crowds in check, but the greater number means that your chances of seeing large mammals such as foxes, deer and chinchilla are reduced. You will be sharing campsites and in many areas be walking with other groups. There is much less traffic on the Salkantay trek, less than half the number on the Inca Trail daily. This means that you’ll have much of the trek to yourself, and the campsites aren’t crowded, letting you immerse in the wilderness and camp out in peace. Availability To hike the Inca Trail, you are required to go with an approved operator, who will buy an Inca Trail permit on your behalf. Permits are limited to 500 a day, 300 of which are guides, cooks, and porters. In the high season of May to August, tickets sell out months in advance. Lower traffic on the Salkantay trail means that there’s no need for the daily limits that causes the Inca Trail to often sell out. There’s also more flexibility than with the Inca Trail, where strict permit rules do not allow for date changes or cancellations. Landscape & Facilities The Inca Trail is one of the world’s most famous treks, and the only trek which hikes right into Machu Picchu. But the Salkantay Trek is famous for its scenery, which most guides attest surpasses that of the Inca Trail. You have a better chance of seeing larger mammals and varied plant life. On the Salkantay trail, unlike the Inca Trail, you do not enter Machu Picchu through the Inti Punku Sun Gate. As you spend the night in Aguas Calientes the night before, you can either take the bus up to the ruins, or, if you want to see Machu Picchu in the dawn, hike up to catch the sunrise. During your visit to the Machu Picchu, it’s possible to hike up to the sun gate in about a half hour. The campsites along the Inca trail include toilets that are cleaned every few days. Treks on the Inca Trail tend to be better organized in general. Campsites along the Salkantay Trek are bare basic, and most groups set up their own tent toilets. There are no shower facilities, although you can bathe in side streams if you’re willing to brave the cold.
The itinerary varies by the duration of your trek. There are option to choose from short 4 day to 8 day treks. The amount you walk each day varies. An average day is 5-8 hours, but on summit night combined with the following day you can walk between 8 and 11 hours. For a typical 5 day trek, the hike starts from Mollepata, which is a few miles from Cusco. The first day is an easy one as you get used to the altitude. The second day involves scaling the steepest part of the trek through Salkantay Pass at 15,000 ft. You will get glimpses of glaciers. By evening, you will descend to a lower altitude. The third day isn't hard as the second day. The trail passes through the forest, streams, waterfalls, and hot springs. The fourth day hike is mainly on roads and railway track. At the end of the day, you will reach Aguas Calientes, the nearest city from Machu Picchu. Here, you have the option to go to the site on a bus. The fifth and final day of the hike involves a one hour climb through the stairs all the way up to Machu Picchu and the Inca ruins.
What a beautiful experience! This is a fine company with very good people. Pallav, my rep was professional and very responsive and the local company which I was referred to (Anacondor Tours) was awesome in all means. The level of service provided for the excellent price you get is incredible!
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This is our first time with Ankit and Alien Adventures. Excellent,we are all booked for our Kilimanjaro trek in September,and it's been a very smooth operation. Very professional and quick to respond to our every query. We would definitely go through them again for an international adventure.Read full review
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They have been so easy to use. All I had to do was outline the dates I was considering and they helped me build my timeline AND pick the best route for me! They gave me the time I needed to make my decision, without sending me email every day!Read full review
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